I have an undying love for cheese. Brie, cheddar, gouda, swiss; I really don’t discriminate. I love all kinds of cheese and I like cheese on most things.
Fondue is defined as “a dish in which small pieces of food are dipped into a hot sauce.”
In Switzerland, that hot sauce is cheese.
According to Wikipedia, fondue was popularized as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss cheese union as a way of increasing cheese consumption.
Needless to say, I like their style.
I knew I had to visit the birthplace of fondue, for this is a culture and style of eating I needed to be a part of.
I quickly learned that Switzerland is more than just a large bowl of insanely delicious melted cheese…
The beauty of Switzerland is unmatched by most. The Swiss Alps are a fairytale from afar and when seen up close, you’re submerged in the pure white splendor wrapping you tight like a snuggie in winter.
Swiss cheese aside, we really based this trip around a love affair with an Instagram photo. Hotel Villa Honegg appeared to be a magical land filled with hot tubs and insane mountain views. But could it be real?
It was dark when we arrived so we made sure to coast slowly in our rental car along the winding roads covered in snow and ice. Hotel Villa Honegg is about thirty minutes outside Lucerne, yet it’s not the easiest place to find even with the help of a GPS. Finally, we came across a vague, dark building at the top of a mountain, covered by clouds and fog, like a scene from The Shining.
What began with an Instagram photo obsession would either be the stage of a horror story, or the best long weekend trip to Switzerland I could have imagined.
Long Weekend Itinerary
Chicago > Zurich > Lucerne > Interlaken > Mūrren > Thun > Zurich
Hotel Villa Honegg – Set high above Lake Lucerne, it’s typical to wake up in the morning to a white haze and end up with the most breathtaking view of the Swiss Alps, lake, and valley. There’s ample outdoor space to take in the views and the most photographed indoor/outdoor spa pool is no exception, nicknamed “stairway to heaven” for good reason. The electric blue pool is heated to a warm 93 degrees Fahrenheit and the lounge chairs are covered in snow and faux fur. Snow bathing is encouraged. Sunscreen is optional. The staff makes you feel right at home, from allowing faux fur robe attire in all parts of the hotel to hosting games of chess cozied up by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa, a hot toddy, or even champagne.
Hotel Eiger – Given that it was the month of February and prime ski bunny season, we knew we wanted to visit a mountain town. We didn’t have time to get to the well-known ski resort towns like Zermatt or Verbier so we set off on a lesser known adventure that I couldn’t have been happier with! Mūrren is a tiny car-less town with an abundance of character. Getting there is part of the fun – Drive to Lauterbrunnen and park your car. If the lot is full, you can drive a little further to Stechelberg. The cable car will transport you (and your luggage) all the way to Mūrren. The 20 minute ride is a rush of magnificent mountain views. From the cable car exit, Hotel Eiger is about a 10 minute walk (or sleigh ride for your luggage) down the one street town. This fire-roasted cozy oasis will make you yearn for hot cocoa in a Christmas sweater. Wood panels, warm fireplaces, tufted leather couches, weiner schnitzel, and extreme mountain views. It’s everything Swiss you could possibly imagine.
Park Hyatt Zurich – The lobby is a statement of luxury in itself, highlighted by the high-end Swiss watch shop it’s connected to.
Zunfthausrestaurant Pfistern – Say that three times fast. Actually, just try saying that at all. Admittedly, I have no clue. This was the official destination of our first authentic fondue experience in Switzerland. Be warned – it is an unexpected STRONG smell. Once you get past that, enjoy the simplicity of bread and potatoes dipped in a blistering pot of melted cheese.
Old Swiss House – A step back in time, this meat-heavy establishment is as Swiss at it gets.
Läderach – Tasting Swiss chocolate is an obligation and this spot was my jam. Yes, it’s a chain, but it’s Swiss as can be. This pristine chocolatier is favored by locals and they give out free samples.
Eiger Stubli – The oh so cozy restaurant in the Hotel Eiger. Snuggle up by the fireplace with some wiener schnitzel and a glass of wine.
Hotel Alpenruh – With an abundance of sunshine, this mountain town was the perfect temperature for a glass of wine on the gorgeous terrace of this hotel. You’re literally engulfed by mountains as you sip your wine and with the power of the sun, a jacket wasn’t necessary but sunglasses were. We decided on a “light snack” – the creamiest soup chock full of bacon and herbs and macaroni au gratin with shoulder of ham, bacon, alp cheese, and apple mash. Yes, I said just a light snack. With the sun beaming down on us, it was the perfect afternoon. The best part was that nothing had to be planned in advance. Cable cars leave every 15 minutes, which leaves plenty of time for that spur of the moment additional glass of rosé!
Kronenhalle – This legendary restaurant is just as famous for its art and history as it is for the sliced veal. Featuring artwork by Picasso and more, they say it was the place to see and be seen. In fact, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein were said to be regular patrons. And rumor has it that James Joyce wrote portions of Ulysses while sitting at a corner table in the main dining room.
Road Trips – If this wasn’t a true long weekend visit, I could road trip around Switzerland for weeks. There are plenty of towns to discover and explore.
Lucerne Sightseeing – From Old Town to the Chapel Bridge, save some time to uncover the town’s beauty and charm. Depending on the weather, cruise down the lake on a boat.
Interlaken – An hour from Lucerne, Interlaken is exactly how it sounds – between two lakes. Compared to the other towns I was lucky enough to visit in Switzerland, Interlaken just didn’t do it for me. The sounds of Americans studying abroad echoed on all corners of the streets and I felt as though it didn’t lure me in like the rest of Switzerland did. But hey, this is just my opinion and I would still encourage you to check it out for yourself! And if you do, go for afternoon tea or cocktails at the Victoria Jungfrau Hotel.
Schilthorn – A quick cable car ride away from Mūrren, Schilthorn offers breathtaking views of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau Mountains. You are literally IN the mountains. It’s an incredible feeling to breathe in the crisp clean air, consumed by the beautiful white powder of snow as if you’re inside a snow globe. You’ll also get to experience the Swiss obsession over James Bond, as the revolving restaurant Piz Gloria was the site of James Bond’s nemesis in the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Order a martini (shaken, not stirred) while you take in the incredible views.
Winter Activities – Sledding, Skiing, Snowshoeing in Mūrren
Thun – After quite a bit of research, we settled on visiting the town of Thun on our way from Mūrren to Zurich. This decision did not disappoint as we lucked out with the most gorgeous sunny day to visit this historic old town. As if the castle wasn’t reason enough to spend a couple hours in this charismatic town, it happened to be Sunday Funday by the lake. Even in the midst of winter, restaurants and bars were packed with outdoor seating along the lake and within the Old Town walls. Experiencing a quintessential Swiss town was one of the highlights of this trip!
Sunset lake views – After throwing our luggage in the hotel, we ran out to catch the most beautiful sunset over the lake in Zurich. We were lucky to have found this special moment in such a large and urban city.
Snow Bathing – At Hotel Villa Honegg, sunscreen is optional.
No Regrets But
Other nearby towns if you have a little more than a long weekend: